CAR­PET­ING THE CUT

Progress on the Shrews­bury & New­port since we last vis­ited ap­pears to in­clude cov­er­ing the canal in car­pet! We re­turn to find out what’s go­ing on...

Canal Boat - - This Month - WORDS & PIC­TURES BY MARTIN LUDGATE

Why’s the Shrews­bury & New­port be­ing cov­ered in car­pet? We find out what’s go­ing on

Join­ing the dots: that was the rather op­ti­mistic phrase used by Shrews­bury & New­port Canals Trust Chair­man Bernie Jones in the March 2014 Canal­Boat to de­scribe the Trust’s progress to­wards reopening the long-aban­doned route from the Shrop­shire Union Main Line at Nor­bury Junc­tion back to the orig­i­nal Shrews­bury ter­mi­nus. Op­ti­mistic, yes, but it’s an in­di­ca­tion of how well things are go­ing that we’ve re­turned af­ter less than two years to find some sig­nif­i­cant changes.

That said, in some ways it was a very fa­mil­iar scene at For­ton, east of New­port, on a fine week­end in Oc­to­ber. Just like in our last ar­ti­cle, a Wa­ter­way Re­cov­ery Group week­end party was hard at work at this in­ter­est­ing lo­ca­tion, where the canal passed un­der a fine Thomas Telford skew bridge, then over an un­usual aqueduct which also car­ries a mi­nor road. It even fea­tured most of the same vol­un­teers. But whereas in early 2014 they’d been clear­ing scrub to en­able the Trust to see what was left of it, this time they ap­peared to have re­turned to car­pet the canal! What was all that about, then? One find­ing of the early in­ves­ti­ga­tions was that the pud­dled clay canal lin­ing was very poor. Given the sandy lo­cal soil, it would be un­likely to hold wa­ter. In the past, that would have meant bring­ing in more clay – but th­ese

days, mod­ern ma­te­ri­als pro­vide less bulky al­ter­na­tives.

Not all have proved suc­cess­ful: one ‘mir­a­cle’ new light­weight ma­te­rial be­ing touted around a cou­ple of years ago has turned out to be any­thing but wa­ter­tight! But one that’s build­ing up a proven track record is ben­tonite mat­ting.

Ben­tonite is a clay which ex­pands to sev­eral times its size on con­tact with wa­ter. A layer of it, en­closed in a fi­bre mat­ting ma­te­rial, forms a wa­ter­tight mem­brane which is also, to a cer­tain ex­tent, self-heal­ing if punc­tured. And it looks rather like car­pet! The vol­un­teers had a sys­tem go­ing...

Lay­ing ben­tonite mat­ting to line the canal Top right: as it looked when work be­gan

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